From the January 14, 2016 issue
of Public Power Daily
Originally published January 13, 2016
By Jeannine Anderson
A new solar energy farm built at the site of an old landfill is producing electricity for the municipal electric utility in Riverside, California and has pushed the city’s total solar generation past the 25-megawatt mark, five years ahead of schedule.
The 7.5-MW solar farm, located on the city’s former Tequesquite Landfill, was created by the public power utility in partnership with solar developer SunPower. A megawatt is enough to power about 650 homes.
The Tequesquite Landfill solar farm uses SunPower solar panels. SunPower built the system as part of a 25-year power purchase agreement under which Riverside Public Utilities will buy the power generated by the plant at rates that are competitive with retail electricity, the utility said.
The system is owned by 8Point3 Partners LP and the YieldCo joint venture formed by SunPower and First Solar. The city of Riverside will retain the renewable energy credits associated with the system.
“Riverside reaching the 25-megawatt milestone is especially impressive because it was not too long ago that 1 megawatt was an ambitious goal,” said Riverside Mayor Rusty Bailey last fall, after the plant went on line. “The fact that we are reaching 25 megawatts five years ahead of schedule speaks volumes about our commitment to green energy and sustainability.”
The city’s Clean & Green Task Force, made up of local leaders and city personnel, had looked for ways to improve Riverside’s appearance while making city practices more sustainable and improving air quality. One of the goals recommended by the task force was to install at least 25 MW of solar energy generation within the city by 2020.
The city said in a news release that initially, solar projects in Riverside were funded by RPU and were placed at city sites that included low-income housing, senior centers, pool facilities, and City Hall, until RPU began its residential solar rebate program in 2003 and started a commercial rebate program in 2008.
Participation was sluggish at first, the city said, but by 2012 solar projects in Riverside were generating more than 5 MW. Two years later, that grew to 10 MW.
“As technologies improved, costs lowered, and additional incentives from the state became available, participation levels grew exponentially,” RPU said. “So much so that for the past two years RPU’s solar fund reservations have closed within the first day they come available.”
“We’ve come a long way from our first solar generation project [a carport shade system at the Utilities Operation Center constructed in 2001] to the nearly 1,700 systems that are online in Riverside today,” said Michael Bacich, the city’s sustainability officer.
RPU is using Energy Depot software in connection with a solar rebate program and other rebate incentives. Energy Depot is a collection of software offered to public power utilities via Hometown Connections, a subsidiary of the American Public Power Association.
Riverside announced last fall that SunSpark Technology Inc., which makes solar panels, plans to open a manufacturing and assembly plant in the city. Another solar firm, SolarMax, already has its headquarters in the public power community.